Whether you’re implementing omni-channel support for the first time or enhancing your current offering, here’s what you need to know.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans have a smartphone, according to Pew Research. And, as that trend increases, so does the number of users turning to digital devices for a wider range of services. In fact, Pew found that 57% rely on their smartphones for online banking, 44% have looked up real estate listings and 43% sought job information, among many other uses.
As consumers increasingly rely on smart devices for everything from shopping to job searching, companies must be able to deliver omni-channel technical support and customer care via apps, chat and text. Here’s why: Companies with well-defined omni-channel customer experience management programs achieve a 91% higher year-over-year increase on average in customer retention, according to the Aberdeen Group (Omni-Channel Contact Center: The Smarter Way to Engage Customers).
Whether you are implementing omni-channel customer support for the first time or enhancing your current offering, you must understand which digital channels the majority of your customer base currently use to connect: phone, social media, online chat or smartphone apps. If you’re trying to engage customers on an underutilized support channel, you’ll be wasting valuable time, effort and resources.
After identifying the digital channels that best align with your existing customer base, the next step is to create or modify the specific digital support “swim lane” process based on the contractual delivery model. For example, if you’ll be implementing text or chat capability as a support model, then traditional service levels for voice/phone support will need to be modified to ensure that agent utilization isn’t compromised. If it’s social-media support, it will be imperative to build a comprehensive workforce management model to ensure that your staffing model is both scalable and flexible during peak times.
The availability of omni-channel customer support does not necessarily equate to a company being able to implement it successfully with its customers. Once the required digital customer support channels are identified, it’s important that they align with existing and future technology capabilities.
As a first step, look at the organization’s current resource skills, support processes and technologies and decide what enhancements are needed to support comprehensive and mature omni-channel customer service, including new technology and agent training. Then, make sure that the organization’s corporate strategy/budget can keep pace with the required financial investments for training and infrastructure. A detailed transition or project plan will be needed so that minimal to no disruption occurs to the existing customer service levels during any potential digital customer support channel implementation.
Make It Personal
While channels such as chat and social media may be perceived as less personal, there are ways to overcome that challenge. In fact, training agents to maintain and deliver communications in a conversational manner in these channels has shown to reduce the stress levels with customers in an omni-channel support environment.
There are many methods that can be employed to allow for personalized and productive conversations on digital channels. This can include staying positive with a frustrated customer by relaying a similar experience when walking through a complicated task, such as troubleshooting a new device or setting up a new account. It’s also important to personalize the conversation by acknowledging the customer by name, regardless of the channel.
Factor in Disruptions
Finally, as with any technology upgrade, an organization must plan for potential service disruptions. If a social-media platform goes down, how can customer inquiries be rerouted? It’s crucial to prepare for potential service disruptions and have the ability to scale other support platforms to answer customer inquiries. If an organization fails to plan, then the support environment created is a “plan to fail” environment for the customer.
Support for customer care via digital channels is expected to grow exponentially. Prior to leaping into an omni-channel support environment with multiple digital support channels, consider whether the channels chosen for your support model are the best fit for your customer.
Furthermore, perform an assessment of your current skills, technologies and infrastructure to ensure that there are no gaps in your ability to provide the desired omni-channel support. And, above all else, keep in mind these famous words, "A happy customer tells a friend; an unhappy customer tells the world.” Providing a positive, efficient customer experience consistently will create a satisfied customer that will continue to drive recurring revenue for your company.
Michael Mills is senior vice president of call center solutions firm CGS. He has led BPO-related organizations specializing in technical solution design and development and project/transition management delivery for more than 20 years. With his diverse client industry experience, he has been working with various global companies, helping to develop best practices for their worldwide organizations.